This is the second part of two posts. I recommend you read the post I wrote just prior before moving on to this one.
Allowing a book, or any external event, to represent something as hefty as entering into a new chapter of life puts an extreme amount of pressure upon its success. Lately, I’ve begun to wonder: What if the book doesn’t fulfill my dreams and what if I still feel like my life is full of fear and wandering? I wonder if I’ve allowed the publication of my writing to define me; I wonder: has WE WERE LIKE SONS become a little god?
In truth, until two weeks ago, the plan was for my book to be finished and in your hands before the end of this year. The Kickstarter was going to launch November 15th and run for one month, at which point production and printing would begin, and by New Years Day, you’d be able to sprawl out upon your couch and begin reading it.
Oh how great that plan did sound! Oh how wonderful to send my story off into the world! These were my outward thoughts. But inwardly I secretly schemed: Oh how wonderful to be released from my wayward twenties, and with this book be finally commissioned to “settle down” into a normal, meaningful life.
In the Bible, the writer Matthew records Jesus as asking his disciples, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” I came upon this scripture recently. It kind of hit me like a large sack of potatoes to a bloated gut. I imagined Jesus asking me the same question that he did his disciples. I seemed to hear something like: Aaron, what will you have actually come away with when you publish this book that you do not already have?
I fought myself for a while. After all, I wanted the book to be done. I met with friends and told them about my timeline; I talked about my kickstarter video already being scheduled, and all the logistics basically being worked out. I told them all they were right to say it sounded like a tight production schedule. For about a week I ran two main questions through my head. First, the practical question: Have I done everything I can to make this project and kickstarter successful?; second, the emotional and more spiritual question: Have I done everything I can to make this book into something I idolize?
To give you a personal update, the desire to finally be something more than I am, and being driven by a very prevalent discontentedness have been large areas of sin for me over the last few years. Grandma Elsie and all of my friends and family would certainly not want me to obsess over this book as I have, though. If they knew how much of my personal significance was on the line with the completion of it they probably would have told me to throw it all away.
But there’s more. There was at least one more event that influenced my decision. About a month ago I got to meet with an author named Joseph Anfuso.
Joe is the brother of my girlfriend’s mentor, and in finding out that I am an aspiring author, her mentor quickly set up a meeting for us. One cloudy Tuesday morning I drove up to Vancouver, in Washington, to meet Joe at the headquarters of his nonprofit organization Forward Edge. The inside of his office was full of trinkets from all around the world and pictures with congressmen and family. In preparation for our meeting I read his book, Message in a Body, and it captivated me from the beginning, especially reading about how he’d subscribed to nearly every major world religion over about a ten year span, and in doing so travelled all around the world. At one point, he and a friend even climbed to the base camp of Mt. Everest in search of peace and adventure.
In his office, Joe snapped open a Diet Coke and asked me what I wanted to talk about. I could have gone on and on about his book, but I decided I’d cut to the chase.
“Well, I’m writing a book, and I guess I want to learn about your process when you wrote your books. Especially Message in a Body.”
Joe leaned back and looked like he was going to tell me a long story. He smiled even. “Aaron,” he said. “The greatest piece of advice that I could give to you is this…”
I moved to the edge of my chair.
“Get yourself to the point of being okay with shelving your book,” he said, and took a sip of Diet Coke.
I was taken aback. “Really?” I said, trying to sound polite.
“Really,” he said. “Your book being a memoir, I’m going to guess that it mentions some sensitive stuff, maybe about your parents or about friends.” He was dead on. “Because of this, you need to be completely sure about what you submit to the world. Plus, if you shelf the project, even for a few months, you never know what you might think to change or add to your book. You’re the final say.”
When I drove back down to Portland that morning, I didn’t think I needed to take Joe at his word and wait. Nor did I actually think that I would (sorry Joe). In my mind, I was ready to push my book off the ledge and let it soar into the world. But later, after coming up against that passage in the book of Matthew and realizing how much pressure I’d put upon a book to fulfill my dreams; after Joe’s advice and after gathering a handful of hesitant looks from my friends, I’m not so sure. Very slowly and almost painfully, I decided that I’m probably going to be better off shelving my project and myself for a few months.
You can never know what will come by waiting. In fact, I may not change a thing about the book. But in shelving, I can rest assured that I am putting aside something that I’d let control and tempt me to fantasize about becoming something esteemed; I’m allowing myself to put aside an illusive god.
The truth is that I am loved, book or no book. God will still love me. My friends will still love me. Even Grandma Elsie will still love me, and in the end, I won’t have forfeited my soul in an attempt to “gain the world.”
So for now, I’m putting it off for a few months. Here’s to shelving my book and being open to revising both it and my life.